The Process Continues

Three Ole Miss baseball players who had Tommy John surgery in the past year return for the 2015-16 school year. They are Brady Feigl, who will be a redshirt freshman, Preston Tarkington, with two years of eligibility remaining, and Sean Johnson, who pitched in one game this past season and has two years left at Ole Miss. Today: Sean Johnson

Sean Johnson was penciled in after fall ball in 2014 to be a weekend starter for Ole Miss in 2015. Then came some pain after a pitching session in January.

The imposing 6-foot-7, 220-pound right-handed pitcher from Durango, Colo., and Iowa Western Community College, had been all set. Or so it seemed.

Then there was some discomfort. There was some pain. There was some time off to let things settle down and hopefully heal.

There was even one outing. Johnson pitched in a relief role against William and Mary the first weekend of the season. He relieved Brady Bramlett and pitched one inning, faced three batters, threw nine pitches. The Rebels won 16-2.

But the season would be over for Johnson. The pain didn’t go away. He had surgery days later.

Now it’s been almost five months. Johnson has made great progress and is eagerly anticipating his role with the team beginning next February, whatever that turns out to be.

“It was really hard, because all I got was a little taste,” Johnson said of his first year at Ole Miss. “It was really hard watching the season, knowing I was supposed to be a guy, and seeing us struggle because we didn’t have another starter to take my role. So I think last season added motivation to my game to get better with every aspect. I can see how I can help this team if I come back that much better.”

That’s the plan. He’s been working at getting back to pitch again as soon as possible.

“I just started throwing last Tuesday (late June),” Johnson said. “This summer I’ll start all my throwing. I get a week to go home. Then I come back August 8 and I start throwing bullpens.”

Johnson knows exactly the plan and the dates, and he said the other guys who have been in this same role have helped him. And hopefully he has helped them.

“These guys went through it. I can ask them anything. The ups and downs. Why I feel better one day and not the next day. How to push myself to the limit but still be safe about it. Progress at the correct rate. We all spend a lot of time together as we rehab, so we get to talk a lot. We’re motivated to get better for this next season.”

Johnson knows he has a chance to be a weekend starter again, as he was scheduled to be this past season. But he also knows there is a large group of pitchers arriving as well as a number of talented ones returning.

“Your spot has to be earned. If you want to maintain that spot, then you have to perform,” he said. “It adds more motivation to get better. And if you’re getting better to earn that spot, it’s going to make the team just that much better.”

Johnson was always in the dugout for games this past season. He was in the postgame huddles on the field, then most of the time the first player heading off to the dugout and locker room to change. Then doing it all over again the next game as he put his time in during rehab earlier in the day.

“Mentally the only upsetting thing was just not getting to play,” he said. “At the same time it’s a blessing. I didn’t expect to be here this (upcoming) year. I get to graduate now. Mentally I saw it as a blessing, to add motivation, to get stronger, to become a better baseball player.”

Johnson said he will continue to strive to be ready for the opening game of the season, in whatever role he finds himself.

“Our plan is for me to be ready to pitch this season,” he said.

The Rebels will no doubt be a better team if that is the case come February.

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